Without loading, Allister would pull the bolt back and aim at a tin cup. He would set his finger against the smooth curvature that was the trigger and wait. The pressure between his index finger and the trigger would build. Could he do it? Was he ready? The tension building in his brain would threaten to push against his skull until there was no room left and the pressure forced his brain to escape. Tearing through the thick bone and flexible skin, the pressure would fire his brain on a solo mission that, if aimed correctly, would collide directly into the tin cup and knock it off the shelf where it had been grazing. That was the closest Allister had ever come to killing anything and, since his brain had never actually exited his skull, he was not even successful in it. Allister could not kill a tin cup.
The day of the hunt would arrive, inevitably, and Allister would awake just before a reasonable hour and eat a warm breakfast. Then, he would dress warm to match his breakfast and pack a small lunch. He would meet his three companions and walk out to the woods. The whole way they chatted about past hunts and past trophies, the entire conversation peppered with , "You will get one soon," directed towards Allister. One by one, the hunters would find a spot and leave the small parade. Allister always waited until everyone had trickled off and he had walked a great distance past that last person before he settled into a spot of his own. He would climb up the branches of a nice-sized tree and sit on one of the larger ones and wait.
Waiting seemed to be a big part of it. In fact, more than once, it was the only part of it. But there were times when the silence would be broken by hooves on leaves. And there was even a time when Allister aimed at a large buck, intent on killing it. The buck's rack spread across his head and arched into the air above until each side split into eight spears. The buck sniffed at the air. Always polite, Allister sniffed back. He closed one eye and leaned in. His index finger felt the cold of the trigger getting warmer. The pressure was building. Could he do it? Was he ready? His skull became crowded and Allister imagined in horror his brain shooting from his forehead, free at last, careening threw the air. The pressure in his head beating the pressure in his index finger. His brain beating the bullet and killing a sixteen-point buck while also killing him. He dropped his gun and grabbed his forehead with both hands. His gun fell to the ground. With all the pressure he could send, he reinforced his skull and held in his brain. It was all he could do for the remainder of the day. His friends arrived and found Allister in a tree-his lunch ignored, his gun on the ground below, his hands desperately holding his brain back from chasing after the buck that had long since left.
So, Allister avoided getting trophies from a hunt. He admired those that did, but knew that even if he could convince the index finger to pull the trigger and fire a bullet, he could not guarantee that his brain would not soon follow. Yet, even though he could not really use the gun for its rightful purpose, Allister would polish and clean and make that rifle shine. The barrel, polished with utmost care until Allister could see not only his own reflection but those of all who had ever looked into the it. The stock, whose wood was just as polished as wood could be-to the point where maybe you could not make out actual appearances, but you could see shadows. And in that stock the shadows were so distinct and clear that you knew exactly whom they belonged to. When Allister gripped that rifle, he could feel the finger prints of his ancestors and knew that he was pressing his own farther into the maze, each line of his fingers intersecting eight or nine other sets of older prints. And one day, when his had permanently set in like all the rest, he could pass it on to the next in line. It was not about killing. It was about holding a piece of your history and knowing that somewhere buried in polished wood and steel lay the wooden base of that spear.